By Megan Smith & Regina Featherstone
There is a growth of sugar babies among university students. They provide companionship to sugar daddies or mamas in exchange of tuition fees and/or living expenses. Megan and Regina expose the secret life of these students. As much as the Grapeshot editors are excited at the prospect of a new income stream, we have not forgotten our morality and integrity.
While we all praise the gloriousness of mi-goreng (which we gave out a lot of during O-Week) and the wondrous day that is ‘Tight-Ass Tuesday’, apparently some students feel more desperate for cash than others. Let’s face it – paying for rent, food, drinks, textbooks, phone bills, transports, gym memberships and costumes for theme-nights at Ubar all adds up. Concerning, isn’t it? Recently mamamia.com.au featured the growing trend of online sugar daddy and sugar baby relationships with an alarmingly growing number of university students participating. It seems immoral for a dating site to provide superficial ‘relationships’ where young adults are paid for sex. However, for some it may actually be a legitimate way to pay their bills – all whilst being wined, dined and sixty-nined (We hope our editors skim over that last bit). You may opt out the sex if you wish, as long as you both agree on each other’s expectations.
The average sugar daddy’s profile tells of his love to travel, exercise, read and converse, all whilst making $5 million a year. He is looking for someone to spend ‘quality’ time with. We’d like to say that the typical sugar daddy is an unlucky-in-love, wealthy silver fox akin to Richard Gere in Pretty Woman, but after our intensive investigation, we found this is simply not true. Sadly, he does not have the hair of Mr Gere, and we’re not too certain on how much he exercises. Often he lists himself as married. He expects his baby to be funny, beautiful, smart and above all else, sexy. When we searched for sugar daddies in Epping and surrounding areas, we received an astounding 1,000 profiles. That’s a lot of rich businessmen searching for a sugar baby, seemingly not too concerned about exposing their private lives. There are also sugar mamas on the site but in far less numbers. Both sugar parents are willing to spend up to $5,000 a month on their babies, which they state clearly at the top of their profiles.
A sugar baby is a young person (predominantly female) financially supported by a sugar daddy or mama in exchange for companionship and ‘intimacy’. You can create a profile by inserting a quick and flirtatious ‘about me’, your nicest selfie and your cash-flow expectation. It must be said that there is no legitimate qualification needed to be a sugar baby. If you are equipped with symmetrical facial features, an amiable personality and prefer to be ‘strapped’ than strapped-for-cash, then perhaps you are sugar baby material. Statistics show that there are over 1,400 Australian university students registered as sugar babies, 42 of whom attend Macquarie University. Look around you Macquarie students, sugar babies walk among us.
Before we all get too bogged down with words like ‘prostitute’, the site assures us that it is a “mutually beneficial agreement” between two consenting adults. The site’s spokesperson argued that the ‘relationship’ distinguishes a sugar baby, who seeks a certain type of relationship, from a prostitute, who conducts a transaction with a customer. We’re not sure if we agree with that. After all prostitution is still a limited relationship where payment for sex is involved. The sugar babies do not get paid until they fulfill their part of the deal regardless of their stimulating conversation.
Comments on Mamamia.com.au show that a lot of people feel uncomfortable with this scenario, they’ve deem it immoral and therefore not ‘hard work’. Many argue that, with the array of honest work, perhaps young men and women become sugar babies for narcissistic and self-indulgent reasons. With prostitution already prevalent in society it is difficult to determine if this arrangement is further decaying societal values due to its premeditated, selected and almost contracted characteristics.
These relationships are mutually agreed upon from the beginning. These young men and women are not Anna-Nicole Smith-league gold diggers; they’re students who want to live a lifestyle that is seemingly unattainable with their current situation. They’re living through the impoverished student phase of their life, and it’s understandable that they would want to take advantage of their youthful vivaciousness while it’s still profitable. For them, keeping up appearances with their sugar daddies may be much easier than doing a thankless shift for minimum wage. Nonetheless, a thankless job doesn’t present potential violence and manipulative control. One sugar daddy profile states that, “I expect our relationship to be exclusive. I am very possessive of my girls.” No doubt his inbox has been flooded.
Individuals enact certain levels of control upon each other, but when you consider the wealth and power of the sugar daddy over their baby, things become lop-sided. It’s difficult to exploit the person who has control over the flux of your finances, and more so to have autonomy when your income is based on how good you look in a rich man’s arm. It’s important to remember that these sugar parents are alone and desperate enough to plaster their name and face all over a website looking for younger partners.
This mutual arrangement website also states that anthropologists would tell us that humans are naturally attracted to wealth, beauty and power. So we asked Dr. Greg Downey, senior anthropology lecturer at Macquarie University, about his thoughts on the matter. He replied, “The desire for something new in sex is also balanced with an appreciation of loyalty and the familiar. For many people (not all), over time, the desire for novelty is less strong than the desire for other sorts of things: consistency, trust, support, etc.” The traits listed by the website are not the only characteristics one looks for in a companion. Sugar daddies are often middle-aged and listed as married or divorced, suggestive of unhappiness in their relationships. Downey explains that places the desire for novelty at the top of the heap.
Pointing out the irony, Downey says that the site itself should be an indicator of negative traits such as incompatibility, untrustworthiness and emotional manipulation. The site seems to slide past any discussion of immorality as the creators have made a closed group for like-minded people where normal checks on behaviour are non-existent. This is shown with one sugar daddy who has recently started experimenting with leather and another who expects his companions to be ready for ‘work’ with a half hour’s notice.
Now before everyone gets too dizzy up there on their high-horse have you stopped and considered whether you, yourself are a sugar baby and perhaps had not realised it? If you have a Centrelink number and receive a lovely addition to your bank account once a fortnight, well dear friend, you are a sugar baby to the biggest sugar daddy, Centrelink. Yes, we play by those government rules, provide our details and report our earning. We bitch and hate the process, yet has any one of us walked in and said, “Hello, I don’t want your money anymore?” No… because most likely the line was too long. Although most have a tale of mistreatment and utter incomprehensible stupidity from Centrelink, we keep coming back and reporting those piddly earnings (unless of course you are a legitimate sugar baby then you probably have more of a cash-in-hand type situation).
Being a sugar baby may be morally questionable but ultimately both parties are exploiting each other’s personal circumstance of loneliness or financial uncertainty. Next time you see everyone dressed up in their graduation outfits, maybe look again to see whether that very affectionate guy is her dad, or sugar daddy.
[box_dark]Megan Smith and Regina Featherstone are regular contibuters to Grapeshot Magazine. They study a Bachelor of Arts – Media and Bachelor of Law with Bachelor of Arts – Media respectively. Both are in their third year at Macquarie University.[/box_dark]